Kodel's Canyon Colorado National Monument

Kodel’s Canyon

“Always somewhere there is fire or smoke, insistent reminders of the greed consuming the world”
Sy Montgomery, Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest

My allergies have returned.

They always seem to pop out at the first hints of spring…the first cherry blossoms, the daffodils…the first warm days.

This is wholly inconvenient for me as I absolutely relish the first warm days…and yet am plagued by sneezing, runny and raw noses, and, when the medicine kicks in, profound drowsiness.

Our hike today was no exception…except that the allergies were joined by the smoke of dozens of fields burning.

Intentionally burning.

Probably without permits.

And the smoke likes to settle into the canyons, especially the upper canyons of the Colorado National Monument.

Of course, when we set out I had no idea that either allergens or smoke would be the causes of discomfort. Nay, twas the slight chill still remaining in the air and the boy walking alongside my daughter that caused me the first pangs of distress.

Nevertheless, we set out! The 5 of us, plus the boy, and our friends, Chris and Joy- whom we quite enjoy sharing adventures with.

We followed the route suggested by THIS SITE and were able to spot the ancient pithouse, cottonwoods just coming to bud, the trail cutting off to the Fruita Dugway [another one I am greatly anticipating], the gold mine, and the upper vales of the canyon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When we inevitably got to the dark, precambrian rock, my daughter went on ahead with her ‘boyfriend’ and got all excited! She just HAD to show off her climbing skills!

So up, up, up she went…without harness or sticky shoes or regard for her own safety, or any idea how she would get down from a way up there…or regard for her mother’s heart.

I didn’t realize there was a problem because I was still up the kill checking out the ‘gold mine’ with the littlest child….Until I heard Matt say, “Elisa…” with the kind of tone that immediately told me something was up.

So I hustled down there. I was calm. Composed.

I asked them how they were going to get down. Tim wasn’t up as high and he said, ‘no problem’ but my little heart was like, “!%&@*#^^@%$%&!!!! If he slipped from there we would be doing a carry-out”.

Look, I’ve tried to scale these same types of walls again and again and I know I’m a good climber, but I also know that these particular walls can be quite slippery when unexpected.

Slippery and/or pointy.

So the eldest child got up to a safer point and started looking for a way down. She yells, “Okay! I found a way” but her way was this tiny, very steep slot that she couldn’t see all the way down. Next thing I know, I see rocks falling from this crack. I run over, scramble up, wedge myself where I can see her and coach her down. She was, at times, holding on with just her grip…her feet were sliding, and when they did find purchase they were shaking uncontrollably.

Now I’ve seen my kids in situations before where a fall or accident could or is about to mess them up. Instead of freaking out and screaming, I find this deep feeling of calm. The calm of the inevitable. I could actually foresee her falling, my attempt to catch her, and both of us plummeting down hard. And it was all going to be okay. Because eventuality is always okay.

Her terror made my mind blaze. She couldn’t get back down, so I said, “Can you go up? If you can climb back up, just head toward the red rock walls and you’ll find a trail. When you find the trail, head back down and we’ll find you.”

This was the scary part. Because she didn’t obey me. She climbed up and then started looking for another way down to where we were. I had to raise my voice to her [something I do rarely because if you do it all the time then it means nothing…] and told her to stop trying to find a way this direction and go find the red dirt!!!

The scary part was trusting her.

Which I didn’t.

But I had to.

Once she was safely up, I turned and started climbing down. My sweet Matt spotted me and made sure I was down safely. I can’t imagine HIS anxiety knowing that if she fell, I would likely fall…

We rallied the kids and our friends and headed back out of the alcove and up to the sand.

Where, of course, my daughter was once again trying to find a way down into the black rock alcove! I had to yell at her again,”DON’T MOVE!”

Of course she thought I was being dramatic, but shit [forgive the expletive but it’s necessary] she hadn’t proven she could make a wise decision. I ran up the slope until I found her and watched her descend safely.

She wasn’t trying to find her mom who was scared for her.


She was trying to find her boyfriend.

They hugged and she cried and it was so much emotional BLAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I can’t even write anymore.

I told her I was glad she made it safely, but that she shouldn’t climb something unless she either has protection or at least an idea of how to get down. That she could have really gotten hurt and that “I wasn’t going to fall” wasn’t an excuse or a reason and that everyone who DOES fall thinks “I wasn’t going to fall” and then guess what?!?! They fall.

She did eventually admit that she had been stupid.

But that’s what boys to do hormonal girls.

I hope she learned a lesson.

Here are some pics from the rock alcove. It was a super rad spot and I wish I could have enjoyed it more.

Maybe next time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


It seems that these canyons that are now part of the Colorado National Monument have frequently been home to insane hermits. Heck, maybe when I grow up I’ll be one, too!

Here’s the story of Kodel and his attempts at gold mining in the canyon…in the hardest rock in the canyon…

The following is an excerpt about Kodel’s gold mine from the “Geological Survey Bulletin 1508“:

It was named after an earlyday stonemason turned prospector, a hermit, who came to the Fruita area before 1900 and prospected for gold until at least 1930 in the canyon that now bears his name. He seemingly built a cabin or house near the mouth of the canyon, spent most of the rest of his life in a vain quest for gold in the canyon, barricaded his house against would-be intruders, and took potshots at anyone approaching his home for fear they were after his “gold.” Some thought him only half crazy, but when he took repeated shots at an Indian named Henry Kadig, he was adjudged wholly insane and sent to the mental hospital at Pueblo, Colorado* for several years. When he got out he sold the grazing rights in his canyon to the late Irving Beard of Fruita, and seemingly was not heard from again. According to various estimates, Kodel dug an adit between 18 and 150 feet into the dark Proterozoic rock in the side of the canyon (shown in fig. 3), then sunk a shaft somewhere between 30 and 50 feet deep.